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My friend Hayley recently posted on Facebook an absolutely true fact about candy corn, which is that it is terrible.
And yet — we eat it. I eat it! You put a bowl of candy corn on the table, I will absolutely mindlessly consume approximately twelve thousand pieces of it, really especially savoring the little white tips.
Why? I don’t know. Candy corn is a truly awful thing that honestly I can’t even bring myself to call food. It’s like what’s left in the tip of a dried-up icing bag after you bake a cake with your preschooler and you’re too tired to clean the kitchen for three days afterward. It’s not a food you should consume on purpose for enjoyment.
Don’t get me started on all the seasonal variations. Who the fuck looked at candy corn and thought “It’s not enough that we consume this monstrosity at Halloween. Let’s choke it down at Thanksgiving! Let’s pack it with a different assortment of festive dye and gag on it at Christmas! Let’s swallow it along with our inexplicable sense of sadness and impending doom on Valentine’s Day! Let’s take other, better candies and MAKE THEM TASTE LIKE CANDY CORN!”
There are 456,000 people in this country currently serving time for nonviolent drug offenses, but the monster who came up with year-round candy corn might still be out there somewhere walking free. Let that sink in.
Candy corn was invented in Philadelphia, which goes to show that no one is above reproach. If the state that gave us the country’s oldest brewery is also responsible for a terrible candy we’ve all been hoodwinked into thinking is delicious, there can be just one takeaway: Trust no bitch.
Candy corn was also, bee tee dubs, invented in the 1880s, a time when cars were horses, light bulbs were a wacky hobby project for eccentric riches, and riverboats were a preferred method of travel. It was originally called Chicken Feed, which is an appropriate coincidence considering it shares so many ingredients with the food given to modern-day factory-farmed chickens. And for some reason, despite the fact that since the 1880s this country has invented an approximately infinite number of superior confections, NINE BILLION KERNELS of candy corn are produced in a year.
That’s nine billion tiny bites of shame and regret. And corn syrup.
When I was in college, I remember, I told my mom about a friend’s parents’ friend who used to make these coconut candies and wait for someone to say how good they were and then triumphantly announce that the coconut was actually made from instant mashed potatoes. My mom flew off the handle in a way that you might expect from someone who raised a person who is swearing and all-capsing about candy corn.
See, my mother grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska in the 1950s, a time when fresh produce was scant and television shows were shipped up on barges and aired two weeks late. When she was a kid, people used to make things like mock apple pie (using Ritz crackers in place of apples) and mashed-potato coconut fudge not as a novelty, but because they COULDN’T GET THE FRUIT THEY NEEDED. So the idea that someone would choose to perpetuate one of these monstrosities, when the option to not do so was so readily available, absolutely sent her over the edge.
Which is now what I think about when I think about candy corn.
Candy corn is like the Electoral College: Its very existence merits periodic review. And there’s no earthly reason, given the myriad breakthroughs in confectionary technology since the 1880s, that we need to still be eating a candy that was cutting-edge in an age when only white men could vote.
Look, I love nostalgia. I think old things are great. As NOVELTIES. Like, if you have an old-timey candy shop on your block, absolutely that store should stock a small amount of candy corn seasonally as a delightful taste sensation from a bygone age.
But there is no explanation for the fact that we, the people of the future who have literally gone into outer space and smashed atoms and for whom cruising through the air in flying machines is a commonplace form of transportation, need to make this mediocre time capsule of a candy the poster child for any single day of the year.
We can, and we must, do better — if not for ourselves, then for our children.